What do children think of the play spaces designed by adults? Why not ask them? That’s what a two Norwegian researchers did, and what an interesting result they found. They asked kindergarten children what they liked best and made them comfortable. Children with and without disability mostly wanted the same things, but there were a few differences. The researchers found the answer to what makes kindergartens inclusive spaces for all children.
Asking small children what they want and what they like is not a common research method. Within a qualitative framework, children collaborated with researchers. They identified the places and spaces that made them feel comfortable and included. Small places equipped with different types of construction materials were a favourite.
Although the context is a supervised kindergarten, there are some interesting findings for unsupervised playspaces. These relate to both group play and parallel play. Fixed small places with non-organised materials were found to be group inclusive. Building blocks were attractive to all children.
The children guided the researchers through their outdoor spaces where they found many activities in parallel. Children formed their own groups for games. Some children with socio-emotional issues, were less at home in these games. However, the ability to move to an area to be alone might have been a positive response.
From the Conclusion
Small places with materials such as cushions and building blocks appear to be socially inclusive spaces for all children. We have to question our adult values in designing playspaces and the involvement of children with disability. Children have their own ideas of what is safe and fun.
“Our study has shown that there is still a discrepancy between
ideology, children’s preferences and pedagogical practices. Children’s voices told that (dis)ability is a spatial phenomenon and guides the inclusive pedagogy closer to the dynamic between children, place and space.”
The title of the paper is, Kindergartens: Inclusive spaces for all children? It is an open access article. It’s worth noting that 97 per cent of children aged four to five years attend a kindergarten and that includes children with disability.
See the Parks, Open Spaces and Playspaces section of this website for more resources.